First off, thank you so much to the 150+ very intrepid souls who volunteered their queries and pages for public consumption and our sort-of-scientific test of the query process.
Here’s how I whittled them down to five. I classified the queries loosely by genre (fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, etc. lumped together and romantic suspense, thriller, mystery, etc. lumped together), then checked to see which genre had the most entries. And yes indeed, YA Fantasy narrowly edged out mystery/suspense!
I then used the random number generator at random.org to select the five entries.
As you read the queries, please remember the purpose of this experiment: you are thinking like an agent. You are not looking for the best query according to the rules of blogging agents or what you personally would choose to read in your spare time. You are looking for the query that you think will have the best written pages and that you think has the most potential of selling to a publisher. Your job depends, in fact, on looking past the query. (Hopefully the writers helped you with queries that reflect the pages, which is why we blogging agents spend so much time dispensing advice.)
Please be exceedingly, ridiculously, incredibly nice to the participants who so bravely offered their queries to science. If I see one anonymous commenter who comes in and is all, “Meh meh meh I don’t like any of them mine’s way better I’m so awesome because no one knows who I am” I will confiscate everyone’s science kits and I mean it!!
Now then. There is a poll at the end of the post. Please vote for the query you would be most likely to request if you were an agent. If you subscribe by e-mail or in an RSS reader you will need to click through to see the poll, and e-mail subscribers, please do not e-mail me your votes.
Here are the queries!
#1: I’M A NOBODY:
Dear Agent for a Day,
Everything Dominic Taylor thought he knew about the universe was shattered when he followed his classmate through a door, and into another world. While trying to get home he is pulled into a war between man and myth that had been going on for centuries. He soon learns that the reasons behind the war are more complex than man’s fear of the supernatural. The only way he can return home is by finding what his deceased father’s research calls the Source, but no one could have guessed what he would find instead.
In the 70,000 words of I’m a Nobody Dominic struggles to find a place where he fits in, to rise above the crimes of the father he never met, and to come to terms with who, and what, he is.
I chose to submit this novel for your consideration after joining your blog. It’s been very helpful for preparing my manuscript and query letter, and I saw you represent most genres. Upon your request I am prepared to send the complete manuscript. This is my first novel.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my Novel.
#2: I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY
Dear Agent for a Day,
Presley O’Connor expects a memorable senior year. What she doesn’t expect is the letter that arrives on her eighteenth birthday with her mutilated senior picture and a wish for a happy last birthday.
A serial killer has chosen her for his sixth victim, but his presence is affecting more than just Presley. Reid Montgomery, a guy she had a massive crush on three years before, is having visions of her abduction and murder. Visions aren’t new to Reid. His family has been under a 400 year old spell that allows them to save others and to find their soul mates. Seeing her in the vision, he knows exactly why he must save her.
When the killer moves to kidnap Presley on Christmas Eve, Reid arrives just in time to save her. The love between Presley and Reid is immediate and powerful. Presley believes nothing will ever stand in the way of their happiness. Reid sees a different picture and as the killer escapes from jail determined to add her to his collection of victims, Reid is unable to stop him. This time saving Presley will take all Reid’s magic, love, and more.
My YA paranormal romance, I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY, is complete at 92,000 words. I am prepared to send a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration of my novel.
Dear Agent for a Day,
Sixteen-year-old Maya Georgiou is a beautiful ocean nymph faced with an impossible decision. She must choose between sacrificing Nate, the only boy she’s ever cared about, to a Greek Goddess with insane demands – or take his place instead.
SHORELINE, complete at 65,000 words, follows Maya as she and her family move back to Bar Harbor, Maine to help the sickly marine life developing offshore. As they settle in the tiny town, Maya finds herself intrigued by the sullen (albeit gorgeous) waiter at the local resort.
After a brief, rocky start, Maya and Nate fall for each other, but the rest of Maya’s world deteriorates. Her attempts to cure the ailing ocean creatures continue to fail, all while her family schemes to destroy her love life. In a shocking revelation they disclose one final, horrific family secret. Maya is not just an ocean nymph. She is also a Siren and must make a deadly sacrifice to appease the Goddess Persephone.
Maya has only days to make her decision. Does she spare Nate by succumbing to the sickness that is literally drowning her alive? Or does she convince him to plunge into the ocean abyss where he will die to fulfill her ancestral obligations?
Although Shoreline is a standalone novel, I have outlined a sequel and have completed another young adult urban fantasy novel.
I freelance for several websites with an audience of teens and young adults and am a member of SCBWI and YALitChat. I’m published in non-fiction, with titles including The Everything Card Games Book and The Everything Lateral Thinking Puzzles Book.
Attached please find the first 30 pages, as requested.
Thank you in advance for your time,
#4: BLACK EMERALDS
Dear Agent for a Day,
Sometimes you go looking for fate, hoping to find a path to greatness. Sometimes she breaks down your door with an apocalyptic grin and drags you out in the alley.
For Kayden Verus, it’s the latter. Fate blessed him with super powers: good looks, superior strength, a killer smile, and more confidence than a seventeen-year-old kid should have. He never realized that she’d come looking for payback.
His story begins with a simple fact: Phaedons exist. They are physical representations of life’s virtues and one of them was Kayden’s father. Upon learning this, he leaves his small town safety to find his true identity at the prestigious Summit High School.
Instead of fate though, he is greeted by mythical creatures called Shades trying to end his life. He is able to foil their murder attempt but he can’t stop them from dragging him into the middle of the ancient war between the Phaedons and the Diotriphe family that controls them.
Enter Ailia. There’s only one thing that can conquer a cocky young man with cosmetic super powers: a beautiful girl with actual super powers. Like all boys, he’s helpless. She captivates him at first site but her sadistic tendencies and unhinged nature might kill him long before he discovers which side she’s actually on.
Black Emeralds is complete at 105,000 words and is of the young adult genre.
I am a first time author with a business undergrad from Millikin University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.
Thank you for your time.
#5: UNREALITY CHICK
Dear Agent for a Day,
When faced with the grim prospect of another year of being the nicest, quietest girl in high school, Rebecca Rogers decides it’s time to get wild. Sure, she’s afraid of the dark, heights, big bugs, and cute guys, but she decides the key to coolness lies in overcoming her fears one at a time. She starts with heights. Unfortunately, the tree she chooses to climb turns out to be the tallest object on the highest hill in an expected thunder storm. Rebecca jumps to escape a lightning strike and falls into a fantastic new world.
Though she’s pretty sure she must be lying in a hospital somewhere and experiencing the world’s wildest coma-induced nightmare, she’s soon facing monsters, handsome princes, and evil villains with diabolical plans to take over this very scary world. Can she save the hottie, defeat the baddie, and run like hell from everything else? Some people are born with courage – Rebecca is having it thrust upon her.
“Unreality Chick” is a fast and funny 50,000 word young adult fantasy novel. I am the author of [a variety of work-for-hire things] and this is my first original novel.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dave F. says
Good efforts by all involved.
#5 – Unreality Chick
This got my vote because if the story reads like the query, I will enjoy it. Fast and breezy might work for me.
#1 – I'm a Nobody
Too vague. Too much male ennui.
#2 – I would have loved you anyway
No. The query is pedestrian. I don't feel anything for the characters.
#3 – Shoreline
I wouldn't mind a water nymph story but this gal sounds like victim #37 in a long list of kids never told they are going to die (or suffer their family curse) stories.
#4 – Black Emeralds
Another kid who doesn't know his past, changes schools and has to deal with a supernatural struggle. Too Harry.
And that's all. Don't take these personally. It's all an exercise.
The Wicked Lady says
Although the premise of BLACK EMERALD was interesting, if I were an agent I probably would have given it a form rejection over the usage of "site" vs "sight". It's the sort of careless error that makes you wonder how much how much work the manuscript is going to need (as a non-fic editor I see this stuff all the time). I'd excuse typos, but usage errors would be a red flag for me, especially if I were trawling through hundreds of these every week.
But I'd like to know Nathan's thoughts on this. Would that error automatically send a query to the rejection pile?
For the record, I thought all the queries had elements which interested me, but the one which really stood out was UNREALITY CHICK.
Lyn South says
I was torn between several queries because I love YA fantasy. Both I’m a Nobody and Black Emeralds have boys as protagonists and, from what I hear, agents are hungry for great “boy” books. So, there’s selling point #1. Both have interesting plots, but, I’m a Nobody comes in at 70,000 words, whereas Black Emeralds is a hefty 105,000. Whew…there could be a lot of cutting there. For that reason, I’m going with I’m a Nobody.
To all the participants: well done! You’re very brave.
These are all good, I thought. I voted for I'm a Nobody. Reality Chick was a close second.
Jaleh D says
I know I'm not critical minded enough to really be an agent. But I wanted to vote anyway. These queries are all better than the most of the ones I've seen on Query Shark. It was hard to figure out which one of these five to pick. I eventually went with #5, despite the brevity of plot description. I could see that one doing well among teen and tween girls.
But I would love to read all of them. I hope that after the five of you get a chance to polish your queries, you can find homes for the stories.
Erica Anderson says
I was torn between "I Would Have" and "Unreality." I have absolutely no interest in YA or suspense, but the first line of the "I Would Have" query made me want to read more.
Author-friend #1, please consider querying with a different title for your MS.
Very interesting. Pretty good queries considering they were randomly chosen. I liked 2, 4, and 5.
I whittled this down to 2 or 5, which I felt had the most market potential. #2 because of the suspense element; #5 because of the twist on reality element.
But then I thought #5 might be a tad too short, and I felt #2 was better written, even though there weren't any writing credits as there were in #5.
I thought #5 was too short and I don't think it's possible to jump out of the way to avoid lightning unless you already have some kind of special powers.
The number one YA book is over 115,000 and the next three in the series are equally as long. Black Emerald got my vote because I think it would have teenage girls dying to read about the MC.
Jill Elizabeth says
thanks for sharing, guys! voted for I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY b/c, not only do I want to read it, I thought it did the best job of setting up what the specific conflict/stakes are.
Unreality Chick! Great voice.
I'm surprised BLACK EMERALDS didn't get more votes. It struck me as the one with the most killer opening line/s. Those first 2 sentences grabbed me, made me want to continue reading more of the query even though I really don't think the book itself is something I'd select when perusing B&N or Borders.
Not that there's anything wrong with the story — I just don't really get into fantasy, and I find myself more drawn to books with a female lead.
A couple of the other queries sounded rambly (I won't say which ones), but this one held my attention from start to finish. The author (I think) succinctly (and in an entertaining way) showed the conflict that made me wonder what might happen to the MC.
Anyway, thought BLACK EMERALDS's query was brill. Great job to whomever wrote it.
Joshua Peacock says
"I would have loved you anyway" is short and gets the job done as a query, without as many mistakes and no-no's as the other query letters. The story is also interested and gives plenty of details in little space without exactly giving the entire thin away.
I have to be honest. I didn't think any of them were stellar enough for me to ask for more. Maybe I am being too critical. Nathan, I will be interested in reading your take on all of this.
Moira Young says
I'm a bit late to the party (story of my life), but I'm participating in order.
I voted for Unreality Chick because it sounded the most appealing, and I figure that if I was an agent, I would go for the stories that hooked *me*. This one hooked me the most.
Alpha Otter says
GREAT story ideas everyone! Wow, there are a lot of imaginative people out there. I'm kind of intimidated, hehheh. No wonder competition is so intense in the publishing world.